Lately it’s seemed to me that there’s a growing awareness that in the United States, the core of central authority is rotten. It still stands, but if you tap on it you can hear that it’s hollow.
I’m not just talking about the government, but the foundations of our economy (not the bedrock, which will endure, but those foundations that we gave names like “security” and “credit” and “trust” and we slapped down on the swamp — you can still see bubbles of swamp gas coming up from where they’re sinking). And not just economic institutions, either, but many different central institutions of authority.
Here’s a chilling example. For two decades Marcia Angell was an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine — they might as well call themselves The Prestigious New England Journal of Medicine for how often they are referred to that way. Angell recently wrote an article for The New York Review of Books about rampant corruption and growing conflicts-of-interest in the medical-pharmaceutical establishment. Her conclusion:
It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines.
Let that sink in.
Also, the news media is dissolving like an autodigesting mushroom — reporting on its own collapse with its last remaining reporters and talking heads. It’s being replaced by a much less-institutional, much less-centralized, much more bottom-up style of reporting, with a different model of trust.
These are just a few examples, and I’m sure you can think of more.
, while reading the descriptions of the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc in Jonathan Schell’s The Unconquerable World, an encouraging metaphor suggested itself to me. I imagined a ripe seed attached to its parent plant, in a tight and populous cluster like that of the cattail for instance. When the stalk dessicates and withers and no longer can maintain a hold on its seeds, the orderly cluster disintegrates and the seeds disperse — a catastrophe! and yet exactly what nature intended, and the only way the individual seeds can fulfill their own destinies.